Sunday, September 14, 2008

Trends or the Blowing of the Wind?

One of the hardest things for a leader to discern is the difference between the development of a trend and a the moving of the Spirit.

When I was in student ministry, we were constantly trying to reinvent ourselves in an attempt to stay ahead of the ever changing curve of the student population. I was directly involved in it for 18 years and saw a significant shift during those times.

Smaller to Larger

I watched the explosion of mega campus groups, primarily in the south, but in places like Waco and College Station emerged a much sought after phenomenon. It started from something called a “bible study,” usually a handful of students and a leader seeking to be used to reach their campus, and in a short time it transforms into a weekly gathering of thousands. God is given credit for an amazing outpouring.

The Worship Band

When I started at the University of Nebraska, worship bands were unheard of. Ours was the first that emerged. Being a frontrunner gave me several opportunities to speak out about the role that worship would play in transforming our campuses. Within a few years, it was the exception for any fellowship to not have some type of band, regardless of how small. What would have been sufficient for an acoustic guitar now demanded that plus drums, bass and a sound system. All for 20 kids.

The Kurt Cobain effect

His death, from my perspective, ushered in a season of angst where it became vogue to project little hope. To be positive was to be shallow. To not live in a constant state of questioning meant you weren’t authentic. Candles and couches snuck in during this season. We wanted to be closer to God this way.

Larger to Smaller

Toward the end of my tenure, the glory from the larger groups seemed to fade. Like Moses' diminishing glow beneath the veil, something was changing, and we weren’t really sure why. Do we blame it on God or the generation?

In each of these expressions, I look back and ask myself if I was following and forming a sociological trend, or if I was really in touch with the Spirit of God and what He desired for us. Answer: I may never know.

I see a similar wave building, and look on it differently now as an outsider and not as one shrouded by his culture he has helped create. It is the Inward to Outward display. I predict the next wave is going to move away from the inward, contemplative worship and teaching expression to a more outward focus of social issues and ministry. Could the next “worship band” be the ministry who has the best trips to help Hurricane Ike victims or the coolest soup kitchen outreach?

I don’t mean to sound cynical, but as a watchman I want to recognize what lies in the outer reaches of the landscape. If I am to awaken others to respond to what I see, I don’t want to be guilty of crying “wolf.”

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